The World Health Organization warned on Monday that the new Covid-19 Omicron variant represents a “very high” risk globally, despite uncertainties about the danger and levels of contagion from the new strain.
The UN health agency said the Covid strain first discovered in southern Africa was a “highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations … some of which are concerning and may be associated with a potential for immune escape and increased transmissibility “.
To date, no deaths related to the Omicron variant have been reported, he added.
But even if the new variant is no more dangerous or deadly than previous ones, if it spreads more easily it will cause more cases and more pressure on health systems and thus more deaths, the organization said.
“If there is another major increase in Covid-19 driven by Omicron, the consequences can be severe,” he said, concluding that “the overall global risk related to the new VOC (variant of concern) Omicron is assessed as very high.”
The WHO said countries should improve their surveillance to try to get a clear overview of where and how fast it is spreading.
He also urged accelerated vaccination against Covid, especially among vulnerable populations who have not yet received any vaccines.
But he warned against imposing travel bans, fearing that blocking travel from countries where new variants are detected could be unfair and deter surveillance.
“With the Omicron variant now detected in various regions of the world, the implementation of travel bans targeting Africa attacks global solidarity,” said WHO regional director Matshidiso Moeti.
A growing list of countries have already imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa, including Britain, Indonesia, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Source Credit: TheGuardian
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